The first contact between the Spanish and the Mayans was in 1511. A Spanish officer named Valdivia was sailing from Panama to Santo Domingo, but his boat sank near the east coast of Yucatan and Valdivia, and his crew was captured.
In 1515 and 1516, many Mayans died from a small pox epidemic that is now believed to have been introduced by the Spanish. The Mayan people did not have any inherent immunity to this disease, and many died within days of contracting it. This epidemic left the Mayan people weak and vulnerable to attack by the Spanish, though it took decades before the Spanish fully conquered the Yucatan peninsula.